Europe Changes Regulations for Food Packaging Materials

Date: Mar 01, 2005

A new Framework Regulation covering materials that are intended to come into contact with food (Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004), which was recently ratified by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union, and is now in effect. Enactment of the new Framework Regulation signals other changes will soon be made in the way that packaging materials are regulated throughout Europe.

The new Framework Regulation differs from the previous Framework Directive in several respects. It calls for new requirements relating to the traceability of food-contact materials so they can be traced "at all stages in order to facilitate control, the recall of defective products, consumer information and the attribution of responsibility." Probably most importantly, however, the new Framework Regulation permits the adoption of additional regulations to control the manufacture and use of food-contact materials as opposed to the previous system which required regulation through the adoption of directives. Under the European system, regulations have the advantage of becoming immediately effective after they are adopted by the Commission, whereas directives must be transposed into Member State law, which requires some time, thereby delaying the effective dates.

Other changes that are expected to come, as indicated by the new Framework Regulation, are measures governing the use of active and intelligent packaging materials. The Framework Regulation defines these materials, and sets out a justification for regulating the use of these materials in the EU. At a minimum, the regulation calls for any of these substances that have a technical effect in food to be regulated as direct food additives. The regulation also mandates that these products not be used to mislead consumers about the quality of a food product and calls for the use of labeling to help accomplish this.

Finally, the regulation recognizes the importance of recycling as an environmental concern and calls for the adoption of measures designed to harmonize Member State laws with respect to the use of recycled plastics in food packaging.

EU authorities have also been actively engaged in developing what they refer to as the "Super Regulation." This regulation, although still in draft, is likely to incorporate at least some of the ideas expressed in this regulation, as well as others, pertaining to matters such as the use of polymerization aids and multilayered materials.

Used with permission. Copyright FOOD & DRUG PACKAGING, March, 2005.

For further information about this article, please contact George G. Misko at 202-434-4170 or by email at misko@khlaw.com.